Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, now the Minnesota Twins new manager, is experiencing MLB’s Winter Meetings for the first time in his career this year. He had this to say yesterday at his press conference:
Q. First of all, what are your reactions to the Hall of Fame Veteran’s Committee vote today? Tony finished one vote short, and Jimmy fell two votes shy?
PAUL MOLITOR: I don’t know what my primary reaction would be. I mean, everyone kind of anticipates every year what the Veterans Committees are going to do. I had a chance to be on the Committee last year that selected the three managers in. I know what that process is like. I know that for every candidate there is extensive discussion both for and against. It’s not an easy thing to do.
The hard part is for a guy like Tony, who I know so well, and he’s been so patient through this process of all the times he’s been eligible. And to get this close this particular time, one vote out of 16 potential votes, it’s disappointing in that regard. But I don’t expect it to affect him.
The other guys, obviously there are some great candidates on there as there were last year. But as Jane said today, it just kind of affirms the difficulty of trying to get into Cooperstown.
Q. Is this your first Winter Meetings?
PAUL MOLITOR: Yes, it is.
Q. What are your impressions of the first Winter Meetings?
PAUL MOLITOR: I don’t see it probably the same way you do. Primarily for me, the first 36 hours has been spending a lot of time in the Twins suite, as we discussed last night what our goals were for our time here, reviewing everything from free agents, and Rule 5, to potential club fits for trades and addressing our needs.
We were looking at our roster, and if things happen, our space is limited right now. So there are extensive things that Terry needs to cover with our scouting team and other people that are present. But it’s a bigger thing even than you can imagine once you get here. I haven’t spent a lot of time down here in the lobby with those type of things, but it’s obviously turned into a major production that continues to grow exponentially every year from what I’ve heard.
Q. How much do you think this will benefit you getting the idea of being up close with Terry as they engage teams and agents and things like that?
PAUL MOLITOR: I think you continue to learn about different parts of the job that you’re undertaking. You’d be foolish not to keep your ears open and try to expose self to many things that transpire and the development of an organization and the process of trying to supplement your roster in any way that you possibly can. Looking for upgrades.
So the coaching search was educational, vetting people, going through the process, and out here, down here seeing some of the process involved meeting with agents and potential free agents and hearing what your scouts have to say about just running through all the Rule 5 candidates. These guys have a lot ?? they do a lot of work in their preparation on the players that are out there. I continue to learn about what that’s all about.
Q. Did you have any manager role models that you use?
PAUL MOLITOR: It’s a combination. I don’t think I can actually tell you how many managers I’ve played for. I’d have to think about that and run through and hopefully not miss anybody. But at different stages of your career, managers mean different things. When you’re young, you’re wide open. Whatever you can absorb and sponge, you do.
I was fortunate being around guys like George, and Harvey, and a young Buck Rogers in his first time managing, and then a young guy like Tom Trebelhorn comes in and kind of innovative and a new thinker and you learn from that. And you get to a guy like Cito Gaston who had already proven he could manage a World Series Championship and learn from him about his way of treating men was very impressive.
Then I get to come back and play for a guy like Tom Kelly who probably is as much, if not more than anybody, taught me the intricacies of the game. How to run a game, paying attention to detail, and just things that I hadn’t really thought about even though I played 18 years when I got there. So it’s a combination that you learn from.
Q. Just like Harvard baseball?
PAUL MOLITOR: Well, I had some good tutelage, for sure. Even since I’ve retired I’ve watched guys and how they do it. You have to admire watching Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox and those type people, even in today’s game, with what Bochy has done in San Francisco, I have a lot of respect for a lot of the guys in the game now. I’ll get a chance to pick their brains over the next couple of days. And it’s nice to have relationships where you can be open to learning and guys are willing to share.
Q. When you say (Indiscernible) as being one of the detailed things that you’ve never thought of. Can you give us an example of what that might be?
PAUL MOLITOR: I think it would start with how he ran in Spring Trainings. I don’t think I ever saw a Spring Training that the manager was insistent on stopping every drill that wasn’t run properly. No mistake would go not repeated. It wasn’t a matter of reprimanding or singling people out. It was a matter of making sure we learned how to do things right, whether it was PFP, cutoff and relays, bunt defenses, it was just extraordinary detail to how we prepared for a season.
In game, I was a DH primarily when I was there, and he had an open door for me. So after games I’d see how he would do things, how he’d set up match?ups or bullpen use or days he tried to use a utility player instead of a regular player, and just kind of his philosophy in how he ran his team. I don’t know if that was overly different from a lot of people that I was with. But I do know that he envisioned the end of the game moving forward probably better than anybody I had seen. It wasn’t that I have to get from the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth, he could work backwards and put things in place. If that makes sense.
So I’m glad he’s still a friend and a confidante. I’ve had a couple of conversations with him already since I’ve had this job, and I’m looking forward to his experience as someone who can help me out.
Q. How is he feeling?
PAUL MOLITOR: I saw him down at Target Field probably within the last couple of weeks and he’s doing well. It’s a reminder that he’s been through something that he has to be mindful of and how he’s caring for himself, but overall I think he’s doing pretty well.
PAUL MOLITOR: We’re optimistic about him coming down. He certainly has an invitation and I’d love to have him down there. Hopefully everything goes smoothly and he’ll be down there in Ft. Myers.
Q. Can you talk about the approach of the voice you want to put into the clubhouse?
PAUL MOLITOR: Well, I will say that any time you try to address that as a new manager, you have to be respectful of where you’re coming from and where your team’s coming from.
Our team has had four very difficult years being around the club on a full?time basis last year. I can’t say that it’s about the fact that the manager didn’t have respect for the team or guys didn’t want to play. It wasn’t any of that. We have not quite figured out with the new core of players that we have on how to get over the hump and win more. We have guys that play hard, play nine, they play the whole season, they don’t quit, all those good things.
But that being said, it was different for me after ten years being out of the Major Leagues to be in an environment of a Major League clubhouse and see the things that go on there. Now some of it is just the change in culture and devices, and things that people like to spend their time. It’s become a lot more individualistic and not as blended. I don’t see a lot of coherent behavior among players, maybe a card game here and there. But somehow I think we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance there. Guys knowing what their purpose of being at the ballpark is. Definitely, you want to have fun and do certain things. But I would like to stir that up just a little bit if I can.
The players clubhouse is their clubhouse. We like leadership from within. We’re excited about what Torii Hunter might bring, but we also have developing leaders that have already been there. Some of our young guys that are starting to get established have left their mark. I think the combination of that is going to provide for hopefully guys that can have fun, but they know how to channel that energy when they walk down to the field.
Q. How will you stir that up? Are you going to plant seeds and hope things happen organically from it?
PAUL MOLITOR: I think that you have to challenge guys to want to do the right thing. I don’t like enforcing things. I would like to think that as men who if they’re committed to winning and trying to change the direction that we’re going, that they’re going to want to maybe understand that some things might be in order to try differently and how they handle their time when they’re at work. So whether I’m going to have to enforce some boundaries there?? again, “enforce” may be the wrong word, but establish certain criteria about things. I’m getting some input from other people that we’ve talked about it, and my coaching staff and we’ll try to have a good plan in place once we get to Spring Training.
Q. When are you going to start planning for spring?
PAUL MOLITOR: I already have. With all the things that are going on with Spring Training and getting your arms around Spring Training is going to be challenging. I think we’re only going to have 64 people right now and just try to understand that we have a field plan that’s been successful for the most part.
But obviously, as manager, we have certain things that I feel we are going to adjust, whether it’s how we have pick?offs or bunt defenses or whatever, cut?off and relays, you might do things differently. Whatever you want to do, you have to do it early because then I think the players will understand we’re doing something different. And the reason we’re doing it is because we want to be different and better.
But I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it. I’ve had meetings with some of our staff already, we’ll continue to do that between now and Spring Training.
Q. What is your view and metrics and how they affect things?
PAUL MOLITOR: I’m learning more about Sabermetrics all the time. Obviously, as a coach last year, I was exposed to them at a deeper level than I had been as a Minor League player development person. I’m going to try to learn what I think is valuable in assessing who plays, lineups, all those type of things. But I’m going to hopefully have enough confidence in myself to have a feel for players, and flow, and season, and momentum where I can trust some of that too. But I think with all the things that are out there, you can overwhelm yourself. But obviously some of it makes sense, and it’s proven to be successful in how managers integrate it into their system both defensively and offensively.
Q. Do you have an overall view of the image you want to project to the players?
PAUL MOLITOR: I don’t know. I hate to say I want them to be?? I don’t want the players to try to be like me because I want guys to be who they are. But I think that I’m going to be more internal than external. I think I like the idea of calmness, regardless of circumstance.
At the same time, having an intensity and obvious look about you. I have a tendency for people to say you didn’t like to laugh very much when you played. I was happy inside, but I was just serious. People say you have to have fun when you play the game. Well, winning was fun. Everything else, yeah, you can have fun, but that’s the most fun. So, yeah. I like calm. Calm is good for me.
Q. Over the years had Toronto ever gauged your interest in management?
PAUL MOLITOR: Obviously closer to post playing days. There were some transitions up there in Toronto and I still had more connections than I did as the years past by. There were some discussions. I remember interviewing at one particular juncture. I think I decided that due to personal interests and situations at that time that it wasn’t the right fit for me. But obviously I have great memories of my three years there, but it’s never come really close to happening.
Q. You were on the phone with Torii a few times leading up to hoping to recruit him and it worked out. Do you envision making more calls like this? Have you already had a chance to talk to some guys you guys are trying to sign as free agents?
PAUL MOLITOR: You know, Torii was an obvious one for me to try to get in touch with personally because of the fact that I played with him briefly. I coached him. Have a relationship. So it made sense in that particular situation.
As other players potentially, as we get closer to hopefully maybe signing another whatever it might be, pitcher, and there is a need for me to talk to that player, I’d be happy to try to give him my perspective of not only what he would be to that team and how he would fit, and whether it’s about family or whether about how he’s going to be used or whether it’s about culture. But that hasn’t happened since I’ve been here yet. But I wouldn’t mind if it did because that would be a good sign that we maybe have a chance to do something.
Q. Are you under the impression from Terry that they’ll implore you to make that call once it gets close?
PAUL MOLITOR: You know, not necessarily yet. I think that from what I’ve seen the first day and a half here, we’ve obviously had a lot of meetings with a lot of agents about a lot of people. When we start floating offers and people know that we’re serious, then it might get to that point, but it hasn’t yet.
Q. Sabermetrics show that Torii has regressed quite a bit?
PAUL MOLITOR: That’s what everybody keeps telling me.
Q. Your overall outfield defense hasn’t been that great the last few years. You have a big ballpark. How concerned are you about that whole issue?
PAUL MOLITOR: My reaction to Torii’s Sabermetrics declining considerably in the past few years, that doesn’t concern me. I haven’t seen Torii on a day?to?day basis. I saw him 18 to 19 games last year, and I can’t think of one ball that he didn’t catch that I thought he should catch that I can’t think of throwing to the wrong base or missing a cutoff man. I saw him make some nice plays and I saw him geek some runners when he made the runner think he was going to catch the ball, and I saw him play in communication with the center fielder. I saw a lot of good things.
Now you can measure range and all those things, but I’ll take his experience and knowledge and throw him out there with a couple of young outfielders and take my chances with no hesitancy what so ever. Yeah, he’s 39. He’s not 29. We all get that, but I’m confident about what he’s going to bring to our team from many different areas including not being concerned about his defense.
Q. What about your overall uphill defense and the importance of it in the ballpark?
PAUL MOLITOR: The reason it’s been a little shady is we’ve had people out there that aren’t particularly good outfielders. You know, if Aaron Hicks was your everyday center fielder the last couple of years it looks like he might be coming out of the Spring Training two years ago, it would have solved a lot of your problems defensively, because we feel he’s good out there.
Unfortunately, when you’re putting players that don’t run particularly well or have had a lot of specious playing outfield with the speed of the Major League game, it’s not going to be always good. We’ve had to make an infielder into a center fielder, we’ve had people like Chris Parmalee, and Chris Colabello and Josh Willingham, and all these guys that are professional players, but you wouldn’t call them your upper?echelon outfielders. We’ve had to put that together. We had to put guys like Jason Bartlett and Nunez and Escobar. I mean, different circumstances have caused us to put people out there that hasn’t always been pretty.
The more we can stabilize that, Hunter playing X?amount of games in right field, and we’ll see how centerfield unfolds because nobody wants to hand anybody a job at this juncture, and then we have the adjustment to left field. I think he’s starting to understand that hitting the ball over the fence isn’t the only thing that’s important about being a Major League player. So these are some of the things that we’re going to try to stress, and I think because we have better athletes, more consistency with positioning, hopefully that defensive outfield play will improve.
Q. Is Danny Santana coming to Spring Training as an outfielder or infielder or you don’t know yet?
PAUL MOLITOR: I would say today that Danny Santana’s coming as an infielder.
Q. The fact that he’s skipping winter ball, coming off a year where he played so little shortstop, is there any chance that changes? Would you like to see him get a little winter ball time at short? He played so much center last year?
PAUL MOLITOR: That doesn’t bother me. I saw him play enough down the stretch. He’s got some games. I’ve seen him play enough in the past. You go to Spring Training as an infielder and do all the reps that we do the first 35 days before Opening Day, it shouldn’t be an issue. Now will it be a hundred percent? I won’t say that because you can get yourself in the box, but that’s how I’m going into Spring Training.
I just have to say this. Escobar, when he came in and what he did for us last year when he couldn’t hold the job. To hit .280 and hit 40 doubles and play as consistently as he did, I’d be a fool to say that that’s not valued. I’m just trying to think of big picture here and maybe see what is the best thing and how he’s going to fit in if that move happens. We’ll just have to see how that plays out.
Q. Have you had any contact with Escobar or Santana about that?
PAUL MOLITOR: I have not at this point.
Q. How much better defensively can Arcia be? It seems he tries to make plays he has no business trying to make. If he would just play within his abilities?
PAUL MOLITOR: I watched how Scottie worked with him last year in the outfield, and they’ll go out there in right field and Scottie will hit balls in corner and say this ball is a double. Your objective is not to play it into a triple. During the game someone will hit it down the line and he’ll try to slide and stop the ball before it gets into the corner and it turns a double into a triple.
Some of it is just controlling. We talk about having control of your emotions in the batter’s box, on the bases, on the mound, in the outfield and making the play. I think he’s an emotional guy that sometimes situations and things get away from him. Part of that is your judgment on when to try to make a play and when not to try to make a play. We all know there is a time to dive for a ball and a time when okay we’ll give up the single, but I can’t let this guy get a triple. But he’s learning that. He works at it. I think like you said earlier, he wants to be more than just a slugger.
He’s young. He’s 23 years old, I believe. So we’re just trying to make him into more of a ballplayer and not to make a cliché out of that, but there are a lot of things. He needs to run the bases better. I think I got his attention the second half last year about that. We all know he’s working on his hitting, and he hit 20 home runs. I don’t know how many at?bats he had last year, but it was pretty good overall. We don’t want him striking out 33%, and we’ll be patient with that guy. He’s got a chance to be pretty good.
Q. In terms of missing bats, pitching staff, where are you on the importance of that? Or are you more a strikeout?to?walk?ratio guy even if a guy doesn’t have a strikeout inning?
PAUL MOLITOR: Yeah, I’ve watched what worked for this team in the 2000s. It was criticized a lot because it didn’t play well in the postseason. When you walk less people than anybody else in baseball over a long season, it’s probably to your advantage. But if you’re not striking people out, then there is always a converse side to the argument. I know that we’ve begun to stockpile some velocity in our system. Realizing that when we watch postseason teams, they have it, and when we play against a lot of teams, they have it. We have one guy throw one pitch at 97 last year. I saw that one time.
I like velocity. I think it increases the margin of error with your pitches and all those good things. But, yeah, the bottom line, I’d like people to get people out. So I’m going to look at anything that works. If we can figure out a way to do that, I know our guys offensively, you face some of these teams with what they bring out of that bullpen, it gets to be tough at?bats day after day. I know that I’d like to be able to do that to some other team at some point.
But strikeouts are good. The game is gone from 17%, I think, to 20% in the last, I don’t know how many years. But striking out at a rate of 1 out of 5, and I think that’s the highest rate in history. So we’d like to get in on that a little bit on the pitching side, and maybe we’d like to figure out how to not be vulnerable to it at an offensive side.
Q. I guess to get in on that, you have to get a few more walks from your staff. You’ve pitched yourself in and out of trouble these days?
PAUL MOLITOR: Yeah, unless you feel used. He’s not an extraordinarily high?rate strikeout guy, but when walks for as low as they are, you create an historical season like he did.
Q. Have you had a chance to have any conversations with number 7? Are you going into next year trying to figure out how to get him to be the guy that everybody thinks he should be?
PAUL MOLITOR: Yeah, we’ve talked about some since I’ve gotten (Indiscernible). Joe’s an integral part of what we’re trying to do and where we’re going to go. Talked to Tom Brunansky. He’s here the last couple days. I’ve had contact with Joe. I’ve seen him a couple times, but we haven’t had our actual cup of coffee, sandwich, something to get together. Because I do want to?? I value a lot about what he has to say about our team. What he thinks of everything from the environment and how we coach and all these kind of things. He’s got those kind of credentials that I’ve got to respect where he’s at with his career.
But I also want to offer him my opinion on heading into the second half of a career. He’s into what? Year 11 coming up. So he has a 20?year career, which would be fantastic. He’s past that point. So there are things that players need to do, and I think he knows that. He’s a smart guy, and just to give you my opinion on things. Now the last part about that long answer, if you play a long time and you have an impeccable track record and career, when are you allowed to have a bad year? How much of this is an aberration, how much is a trend? I know those are things that you have to respect when you talk about making two drastic adjustments.
So I think Joe will figure it out. I don’t have any doubt at 31 years old he’s got a lot of tremendous offensive seasons left, and I know he wants to win. That is the one thing. MVP, three batting titles. He’s got a lot of things going. But he’s missing that one big prize still. I think that’s going to drive him here in the second half of his career.
Q. Some players play better in their 30s than their 20s.
PAUL MOLITOR: Funny how that happens.
Q. Do you want Joe to be more vocal considering his credentials or knowing that he’s just a quiet guy and he can’t force it?
PAUL MOLITOR: No. No, I think people will always debate. Can you demand a player because of either compensation or accomplishments to be somebody that he’s not. I think people like to watch Joe. They see how he prepares, and he’s going to be who he is. Joe gets his two cents in here and there to the right people at the right time. It’s just kind of behind the scenes normally, but I have no problem with how he handles that.